What’s the point in being likeable if people will just hate you for it?
There’s a popular idea that you can’t make everyone happy. And in my experience, that’s mostly true.
The longer you live, you’ll inevitably come across someone who, for whatever reason, just isn’t your biggest fan. That’s okay.
But where most people get this saying wrong is believing because you can’t please everyone, you’ll automatically make enemies when being your authentic self. They don’t believe likeability and authenticity go hand in hand.
If you’ve felt this way, you might even think “why bother?”
Here’s why: authenticity is a requirement for strong relationships and a prerequisite for likeability. Just because everyone won’t like you doesn’t mean you need to make it easy for them to dislike you.
Also, being likeable is life’s social currency.
For example, people go out of their way to help you when they like you. You get more opportunities and offers when people like you. Even likeable doctors get sued less often. And, if you’re like me and grew up in a rough area, likeability can keep you from getting your ass kicked.
There’s just absolutely no downside to being likeable.
So if you’re looking for a way to be more likeable while also not caring what other people think, or “selling out,” keep reading. This article is for you.
Strategies to become more likeable
1. Develop anti-fragility
There are tons of simple ways to increase your likeability—being more confident is one of the most important. Though it isn’t simple in its development, the concept is: the more you like and trust yourself, the more others will like and trust you.
I’ve put this first because it will make the other strategies easier. You’ll also find that getting good at any one thing has the added benefit of increasing your confidence.
The concept of anti-fragility means that your entire life isn’t derailed by a single setback. So learning that others may have a problem with you, or learning you have a shortcoming in your skillset isn’t a catastrophic blow to your ego. And that comes from working on your confidence.
Developing your self-confidence makes it easier to make new friends and build deeper relationships. It also makes you more likeable because people trust you more.
In my book, The Four Confidences, I share the lessons I had to learn the hard way. Developing my confidence was a key to becoming more likeable, quitting alcohol for good, and accomplishing more than people ever expected of me.
Here are the four confidences and how to put them into action:
- Confidence in the process. Trust that one day your efforts will be worth it, that you can improve if you are willing to put in the work and don’t quit. Success is never an accident.
- Confidence in instruction. Find a mentor, coach, or teacher to guide you on the right path. You’ll avoid the death spiral of repeating the same mistake over and over again for years.
- Confidence in the past. Use the stories from history and from others to inform your choices and behaviors.
- Confidence in learning. Trust that given enough time, you can learn anything.
Learning to trust yourself and trust the process is a necessary step to becoming more likeable while not caring what others think of you. The more comfortable you are in your own skin, the more people will like you.
2. Create your personal manifesto
People think that wanting to be liked by others is pandering and somehow groveling. But being liked by others is actually a cue to social belonging.
Social psychology points to people’s need to belong. Feeling included and part of the tribe has been a key to human survival. Loneliness has actually been declared as deadly as obesity and cigarette smoking.
Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for me to see horrendous violence and the absolute worst of human nature every night. During the day, however, I was attending a school for gifted kids. Becoming more likeable made these worlds easier to navigate.
They also taught me two things: everything is a fight to run toward or run away from. The only way to know the difference is to respect yourself.
Put another way, you learn to choose your battles by setting boundaries and having personal standards.
You know the things you won’t accept from others because you’ve likely experienced it already.
Make a list of things that are not okay for others to do or say to you. For example, never date or befriend someone that belittles you.
Boundaries or standards can also be standards of excellence, like dressing like a man (link to my favorite course on the topic), always learning a new skill, saying hello to anyone that comes within 5 ft of you, etc. Write down your vision of the ideal person you’d like to become and use it to set your personal standards.
Writing this down will help to solidify the image in your head and make it more likely that you’ll do what’s necessary to become your ideal self. Call it your personal manifesto.
Something to remember about setting boundaries
When you have a set of personal standards, two decisions are immediately made for you:
- You eliminate people that might force you to act in a way that makes you unlikeable. Following personal standards for how you treat others, yourself, and your surroundings will automatically protect you from many destructive influences.
- You make it easier to like yourself, thus making it easier for other people to like you. When you eliminate people and avoid situations that don’t live up to the standards you’ve set for yourself, you’re also getting rid of influences that no longer align with your path.
Remember a major key to self-respect is actually enforcing your personal standards when they’re breached.
3. Focus on what people are saying and respond
Though first impressions go a long way, first interactions also help determine if someone will like you or not. That’s why learning some conversational tactics are so important.
You don’t have to be a wizard conversationalist or even have master-level social skills. In fact, many people would say talking to new people makes them nervous. So get in there knowing it’s an even playing field. Find some common ground no matter where you are or who they are.
You can do this by asking deeper questions than “how was your day?”
Though that’s a great place to start, when trying to create a connection with others you want to listen to their answers and ask follow-up questions.
Asking follow-up questions helps strengthen bonds and makes people feel you value their input.
In a Harvard Study on the value of questions for relationship building, it was found that follow-up questions, or asking the right questions at the right time, made you more likeable.
However, asking questions alone is creepy and interrogating. In order to foster bonding, you have to share in the vulnerability as well.
And that’s where emotional intelligence comes in.
High emotional intelligence will help you be successful at social interactions with people you don’t know well.
EQ is your ability to pick up on nuanced ques from the other person that they are enjoying themselves or feel uncomfortable. It’ll tell you if you’re standing too close, if a topic is one they don’t want to talk about, or even if someone is into you.
Learning to be a good listener can help you develop your EQ. Active listening helps you respond in real-time to others’ comments. It makes them feel seen and heard and they’ll be more inclined to want to get to know you.
4. Monitor your body language
Studies show that 70-90% of our communication is non-verbal. From our facial expressions to a firm handshake to your posture, you’re communicating something about yourself at all times.
Even if other people have poor body language, it doesn’t make their response to your body language any less strong.
Here are a few body language adjustments you can try today:
- Smile when you greet someone. Smiles generate positive feelings and make people want to get to know you.
- Make eye contact. Maintain eye contact when someone is speaking to you but look away during brief pauses, when you laugh, or in natural breaks in the conversation.
- Show enthusiasm. Showing authentic enthusiasm not only makes people like you it makes them want to impress you and be liked by you.
- Put your phone down. Looking down at your phone breaks your posture, breaks your eye contact, and makes you appear uninterested in the person speaking. All these things make others less attracted to you.
Without good body language, it’s near impossible to make new friends or get someone to find you attractive. And we all could use a little help in that department. I recently wrote a No-BS guide about it. Check it out here: How to be a more attractive man.
5. Don’t be judgmental
No one likes to be told what they should or shouldn’t be doing, especially from a complete stranger. It makes people feel isolated, ostracized, and alone. Forbes found that not being judgmental is also one of the most important things others are attracted to in likeable people. It’s second only to a sense of humor.
Judgment is when you take the input of the world and swish it around in your brain then measure it up against your own personal views and experiences. You want to control others and that’s just not the reality of the world.
When I say “don’t be judgmental,” I’m not saying don’t have standards of acceptability. What I’m saying is respect that others have a different path and perspective from yours. And that doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. In fact, when you feel you might be judging someone else’s behavior, use it as a chance to learn more about yourself and your perceived limits/boundaries.
When people feel like you understand how they see the world, they’re more receptive to you.
You don’t have to agree or empathize with their perspective, but you need to show that you actually get their perspective.
You can’t ever come out and say, “I understand and acknowledge your perspective” or any variation of that. That just screams disingenuous.
Learn to treat everyone like they have something to teach. Be genuinely curious about them.
You can do this by:
- Saying please and thank you and having generally good manners
- Offering genuine compliments
- Asking for advice and taking it (when appropriate)
Behaving respectfully towards others makes you hard to dislike.
Recap of 5 basic tips to make you more likeable
- Start working on your confidence
- Create your personal manifesto outlining your boundaries and ideal vision of yourself
- Listen to others, ask follow-up questions, and share yourself
- Monitor your body language
- Don’t expect others to see the world exactly how you do
Following these five things will make it easy for other people to like you. At the very least, it’s going to make it very difficult for people to dislike you.
Remember: there is no disadvantage to being likeable and no advantage to being unlikeable.
The rest is up to you.